Bill Clinton: Resurgent nationalism ‘taking us to the edge of our destruction’

By Sarah Morris - March 10, 2017

Don’t buy what purports to be nationalism that’s engulfed politics in America and all over the world, former President Bill Clinton said Thursday; what’s actually at play, he argued, is more insidious and interconnected than that.

“People who claim to want the nation-state are actually trying to have a pan-national movement to institutionalize separatism and division within borders all over the world,” Clinton said. “It’s like we’re all having an identity crisis at once — and it is an inevitable consequence of the economic and social changes that have occurred at an increasingly rapid pace.”

Making his first major public appearance since his wife lost last year’s presidential election, Clinton did not discuss President Donald Trump specifically, but warned repeatedly against “us versus them” thinking that he said has become such an active part of politics in America, in the Brexit vote, in the Philippines and throughout Europe.

The speech was the keynote at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution honoring the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“The whole history of humankind is basically the definition of who is us and who is them, and the question of whether we should all live under the same set of rules,” Clinton said. He added that often, people “have found more political success and met the deep psychic needs people have had to feel that their identity requires them to be juxtaposed against someone else.”

Brookings President Strobe Talbott, who was Clinton’s roommate when they were both Rhodes Scholars at Oxford University, and served as his deputy secretary of state, introduced his former boss, saying, “No American president has worked harder for peace in the Middle East, both in office and out.”

Clinton repeatedly held up his old friend Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995, as the standard that contemporary politics is falling short of. Rabin was a man changed over his life, Clinton said, displayed courage and was so reliable that then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was so “in awe of him” that he was ready to make agreements based on trust.

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